Lexington Mayor Highlights New Projects

(The State) A long-wanted facelift planned to draw new shoppers to downtown Lexington is starting, Mayor Steve MacDougall said Monday.

A series of projects is coming as part of an effort to revive the area around Main Street as a shopping hub designed to become home to specialty retailers and restaurants, he said.

Work on the package is beginning this spring after three years of preparation. The list includes:

• Developing an outdoor amphitheater at Main and Church streets, followed by the opening of stores around it. The plaza should be finished by Dec. 31. At 900 seats, it will be nearly twice the size first suggested. It will be the site for concerts and other activities.

• Reducing road congestion on Main Street, Columbia Avenue and Lake Drive through a network of signals run by cameras and digital technology. Motorists should have an easier commute – particularly during rush hours – by Dec. 31, if not sooner.

• Putting up signs for local landmarks such as the Lexington County Museum, parks and walking trails. Those paths will be extended to add a mile around the Old Mill Pond next to a former textile mill that’s now a shopping mall.

“These projects speak volumes of how our pro-active, progressive, forward-looking vision and planning is continuing to create a wonderful, vibrant, livable community,” MacDougall said in his annual State of the Town speech.

MacDougall is overseeing a plan developed while he was a town councilman.

Steadily growing Lexington is home to 20,000 residents, the latest census estimates say. That makes it the largest municipal neighbor of nearby Columbia.

 

13 Arrested For Counterfeit Items at Flea Market

(The State) Thirteen people were arrested Saturday at a Lexington County flea market in connection with the sale of counterfeit items totaling nearly $1 million, officials say.

The arrests, made at the U.S. #1 Metro Flea Market on Augusta Road near West Columbia, were made as part of an inspection conducted by Lexington County Sheriff’s Department investigators in cooperation with the Secretary of State’s Office and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Lexington County Sheriff Lewis McCarty said in a statement released Monday.

Investigators seized counterfeit items worth a combined total of $930,000 as well as $5,520 in cash.

The following were arrested, McCarty said:

• Florence Danyelle America, 49, of Columbia, was arrested on a charge of trafficking in counterfeit merchandise. America possessed multiple counterfeit pocketbooks and Louis Vuitton face plates for pocketbooks, an arrest warrant alleges. America was released from the Lexington County Detention Center on Sunday after she posted a $7,500 bond.

• Patrick Eleuthere Atangana, 33, of Columbia, was arrested on a charge of selling counterfeit merchandise worth more than $10,000. Atangana was released from the county detention center on Sunday after he posted a $7,500 bond.

• Charles Wayne Barber, 24, of Columbia, was arrested on charges of illegally distributing copyrighted DVDs and simple possession of marijuana. Barber tried to sell 434 copyrighted DVDs, an arrest warrant alleges. Barber was released from the county detention center on Sunday after he posted bail totaling $8,120.

• Carl Travis Burrus, 51, of Sumter, was arrested on a charge of trafficking in counterfeit merchandise. Burrus possessed multiple counterfeit pocketbooks and Louis Vuitton face plates for pocketbooks, an arrest warrant alleges. Burrus was released from the county detention center on Sunday after he posted a $7,500 bond.

• Desmond Cordell Butler, 28, of Columbia, was arrested on charges of illegally distributing copyrighted DVDs. Butler tried to sell 763 counterfeit DVDs, an arrest warrant alleges. In addition, Butler possessed multiple packages of marijuana that Butler was planning to sell, the arrest warrant further alleges. Butler was being held on Monday at the county detention center on a bail totaling $15,000.

• Stacey Ranier Coleman, 43, of Augusta, Ga., was arrested on a charge of selling counterfeit merchandise worth between $10,000 and $50,000. Coleman was being held on Monday at the county detention center on a $7,500 bond.

• Walter Rufus Debnaw, 51, of Durham, N.C., was arrested on a charge of selling counterfeit merchandise worth between $2,000 and $10,000. Debnaw was being held on Monday at the county detention center on a $7,500 bond.

• Kevin L. Earle Jr., 35, of 100 Lloydwood Drive, West Columbia, was arrested on a charge of illegally distributing copyrighted DVDs. An arrest warrant alleges that Earle tried to sell 1,250 counterfeit DVDs. Earle was released from the county detention center on Sunday after he posted a $7,500 bond.

• Etelle Edwards, 43, of West Columbia, was arrested on a charge of trafficking in counterfeit merchandise. Edwards was released from the county detention center on Sunday after Edwards posted a $7,500 bond.

• Daniel Mayar Kual, 38, of Columbia, was arrested on a charge of selling counterfeit merchandise worth between $2,000 and $10,000. Kual was released from the county detention center on Sunday after he posted a $7,500 bond.

• Lan Jian Xie, 49, of Cayce, was arrested on a charge of selling counterfeit merchandise worth between $10,000 and $50,000. Xie was being held on Monday at the county detention center on a $7,500 bond.

• Haiting Zhang, 26, of Cayce, was arrested on a charge of selling counterfeit merchandise worth between $10,000 and $50,000. Zhang was being held on Monday at the county detention center on a $7,500 bond.

• Wu Zhang, 30, of Cayce, was arrested on a charge of selling counterfeit merchandise worth between $10,000 and $50,000. Wu Zhang was being held on Monday at the county detention center on a $7,500 bond.

Obama Pipeline Veto Denies Lexington County Jobs

(Aiken Standard) President Barack Obama’s expected veto of a bill to expand domestic oil drilling and support for building nuclear-power plants in South Carolina will result in an attempt to override the veto by supporters of the bill, including legislators from the Palmetto State. Continue reading “Obama Pipeline Veto Denies Lexington County Jobs”

Bolton: A culture of clubbinesss? Next Lexington County, SC, sheriff could have a tough time changing it

BY WARREN BOLTON
Associate Editor
The State
March 1, 2015

LEXINGTON COUNTY, SC — LEXINGTON COUNTY sheriff candidate Ed Felix denounces what he calls the “clubbiness” that characterizes the culture of the department he wants to lead.

He said if he’s elected he won’t tolerate cronyism and will hire based on credentials and ability rather than who you know. “The boat’s going to rock when I walk in,” Mr. Felix said.

Candidate Justin Britt said the sheriff’s department is no place for political patronage, favoritism and hiring friends. The “days of deals and back scratching” at the sheriff’s department would come to an end under his leadership, he said.

While candidate Jay Koon, assistant police chief in the town of Lexington, doesn’t think the culture at the department is that bad, he said that “in the previous administration we got way too political” and declared he would cling to his values as a law officer and stress honesty and integrity.

West Columbia police chief Dennis Tyndall said politics have no place in police work and that he’ll closely examine the culture of the department and demand professionalism.

Each of the four candidates has declared he will make it a priority to rebuild the sheriff’s department’s image, which was tainted by the demise of then-Sheriff James Metts, who pleaded guilty to a federal felony charge. For sure, residents will be looking to the next sheriff to restore their confidence in the department.

But it’s not easy to change the culture of an organization that was cultivated over four decades under the leadership of a man who, by the time he left office, was the most powerful public official in Lexington County. In addition to running the sheriff’s department and jail — where he hired and fired at will — Mr. Metts also oversaw all public safety agencies for homeland security purposes. He also had wide latitude when it came to how he managed his budget. His power was virtually unchecked.

That’s a hard act to follow, and obviously, bringing change could prove to be difficult. Rooting out that “clubbiness” Mr. Felix refers to could be particularly hard.

Part of the reason is that the hire-your-buddy system that candidates suggest has settled in the sheriff’s department isn’t unique to that agency. You can find it throughout local government in the county. To put it plainly: Lexington County is a bit incestuous when it comes to government. It’s the culture.

Need examples?

When County Council made former Sheriff Metts head of homeland security in 2003, he hired Tim James as his public safety chief to oversee those duties. But in 2005, Mr. James surprised council members — who were by that time grooming him to become administrator — when he left to be head of security at Lexington Medical Center, the county hospital.

That’s the same Lexington Medical Center whose foundation hired Lexington County resident and then-sate Rep. Nikki Haley, now our governor, as a $110,000-a-year fundraiser. But, rest assured, Mrs. Haley didn’t use her position as a state representative to lobby for Lexington Medical Center in that high-paid position. It’s true. The House Ethics Committee told us so.

When Mr. James left the public safety position in 2005, what did Mr. Metts do? He hired then-County Council chairman Bruce Rucker, then the longest-serving council member, of course.

In 2009, the town of Lexington hired County Councilman Johnny Jeffcoat as its economic director, a position that had been abolished four years earlier because town leaders said it duplicated the efforts of county officials and local business groups.

Mr. Jeffcoat’s job entailed trying to bring new restaurants, retailers and corporate offices to town. It was an arrangement fraught with possible conflict. Who would the councilman represent when the town’s interest conflicted with that of the county? Beyond that, Mr. Jeffcoat’s hiring appeared to be an attempt by the town to gain favor with a member of County Council.

Town officials seemed oblivious to the obvious pitfalls of such an arrangement. Perhaps that was because the town’s elected leader had a questionable arrangement of his own: Then-Lexington Mayor Randy Halfacre served as executive director of the Greater Lexington Chamber of Commerce while continuing to hold public office.

Dare I mention former Lexington Town Councilman Danny Frazier, who is accused in an indictment of bribing Mr. Metts? In addition to being on council, he held jobs as an adviser to West Columbia on annexation and to Sheriff Metts on community concerns. He lost those jobs amid controversy over his involvement in advising Internet sweepstakes parlors seeking to expand the online gambling that some state officials deemed illegal.

No doubt, a sheriff determined to run his department on the up-and-up can change that culture, though deeply engrained.

But the job is made tougher because he’ll run into it time and again as he traverses Lexington County, where “clubbiness” is business as usual.

Reach Mr. Bolton at (803) 771-8631 or wbolton@thestate.com.

Man Shot at Lexington Medical; No Danger to Public

(WLTX) – A man was found with a gunshot wound in a bathroom at Lexington Medical Center Friday, but officials says there is no threat to the public.

The man was found inside a private restroom where the door was locked, and he was alone. Lexington Medical Center officials say he is being cared for in the emergency room.

They believe the incident was isolated, and no one else was involved.

Lexington Medical Center’s Public Safety Department will hand the case to the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department for investigation.

Opportunities For An Advanced Manufacturing Scholarship

(WLTX)– Midlands Tech and Michelin North America are training and educating high school students who want careers in advanced manufacturing.

Dutch Fork High School senior Taylor Place says welding is a skill he learned at early in life.

“Working in my grandfathers shop and he had a welder in his garage and that just sparked it,” said Place.

The president of Midlands Technical College Dr. Marshall “Sonny” White, says that it’s students like Taylor who he and Michelin North America are looking for. They’re offering the “Michelin Technical Scholar Program” to select seniors at Lexington One and Lexington-Richland Five who want to major in electronic technology. Dr. White says he hope this program will change students’ perceptions about manufacturing careers.

“The students can be come interested in this while they are in high school by the time they graduate from high school,” said White.

White says a strong educational background and skills are needed to work in advanced manufacturing jobs. He says with applications in the hundreds. It’s a competitive program with many benefits.

” Full-time [scholarships] paid through Midlands Technical College, get all of their books paid for, Michelin will give them a half-time job and schedule that around their schooling,” said White.

Which is peeking the interest of students like Taylor who took the assessment test for the scholarship.

“It’s pretty interesting to me that Michelin, a big company like that would want students coming out. They came and you take the test they have. I realized when I passed, the next step was to do the interview process. And that kind of caught my eye, ” said Place.

Scholars of the program earn a degree leaving debt free in hopes of potential job offer at the Michelin Lexington site.

“It would be a great opportunity coming out of high school and going to college knowing that you have the financial background already stable for you,” said Place.